Monday, 30 October 2017

Complaints of Animal Cruelty at Leighton Buzzard Market

Leighton Buzzard High Street on market day 19091 [Z306/72/10/9]

Tuesday 30th October 1917: Concern has been expressed in a letter to the Leighton Buzzard Observer that boys are treating animals cruelly while helping farmers drive them through the town on market day:
“Sir, - May I ask why some farmers and dealers of cattle employ lads who are unreliable? The cruelty that is practised upon our dumb animals is quite blood-curdling at times. Only this week a lad was driving some sheep and calves through the High Street and had a thick, crooked stick. With it he struck a poor little calf over the nose so violently that it fell on its forelegs through the blow and shock and could not rise for some time. A good strapping would do such lads good, and then they would probably be kinder to the poor animals committed to their charge. E.G.”
His comments were supported by the Reverend William Mahony, Vicar of Linslade who is also concerned by the treatment of the animals while they are being transported to market:
“Sir, - I am very glad that your correspondent “E.G.” has drawn the attention of the public to the cruelties inflicted on cattle at the weekly market. But are these “boy drovers” regularly employed by the farmers? I believe that many of them voluntarily offer their services, perhaps for a few coppers, and generally do more harm than good. On Tuesdays, especially in the holidays, a number of our boys may be seen, all armed with sticks, belabouring unfortunate calves and making themselves a nuisance to the regular drovers. May I draw your attention to another point? During Monday night the neighbourhood of the railway station is made hideous by the clamour of these animals, and even on Tuesday night they may sometimes be heard protesting from the cattle trucks. During all this time are they supplied with water or food of any kind? Perhaps the R.S.P.C.A. will investigate. Until lately we have been familiar with the presence of two Inspectors of the Society of market days, but to the best of my recollection I cannot recall a single instance of a prosecution by the Society for cruelty to cattle on market days, during the last six years. Yet one cannot pass through the town without seeing a lot of unnecessary cruelty.”
Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer 23rd and 30th October 1917

Friday, 27 October 2017

Sapper Percy Cobb Dies of Wounds

Sapper Percy W. Cobb

Saturday 27th October 1917: News has reached Bedford that Sapper Percy W. Cobb of the East Anglian Royal Engineers died of wounds at Lord Derby’s Military Hospital, Warrington on 22nd October. Before the war Percy Cobb worked as a fitter for Messrs. W. H. Allen. Following Kitchener’s call for volunteers he joined the East Anglian Royal Engineers on 31st December 1914 and was sent to France in the following April. He remained on active service until August 4th 1916 when he was severely wounded by shrapnel in the legs and body during fighting in Delville Wood. He lay in the open for many hours before a stretcher party could reach him, losing a great deal of blood. After being brought back to England Sapper Cobb underwent ten operations, but the effects of poisoned shrapnel left little hope for recovery. He was visited on a number of occasions by his wife, and arrangements had been made for him to be moved to the Voluntary Aid Detachment Hospital at Bedford, but this ultimately proved impossible.

Sapper Cobb’s funeral, which took place at Bedford Cemetery on Saturday, was attended by a number of workmen both from W. H. Allen’s Queen’s Engineering works and from the Grafton Works, where his father, Mr. G. W. Cobb , is a foreman. The cortege left Sapper Cobb’s home at 23 Brereton Road with the band of the Royal Engineers in front, and the coffin, covered by the Union Jack, on a gun carriage pulled by six horses. The family are well known local supporters of the Conservative party, and a brother of Sapper Cobb has served with the Territorials since the beginning of the war.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 2nd November 1917 

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

False Rumours of Air Raids

Market Square, Leighton Buzzard, looking towards Hockliffe Street, c.1920 [Z1306/72/11/3]

Wednesday 24th October 1917: A man has appeared in front of the Leighton Buzzard magistrates on a charge of spreading a false report that the Germans intended to carry out more air raids on England on the nights of 23rd and 24th October. Arthur Steele, aged 60, is a cellarman from High Wycombe who has been lodging at Leighton Buzzard for the past month while working for a firm of wine and spirit merchants in the town. P.C. Clarke stated that he was on duty at the corner of Hockliffe Street and Market Square yesterday evening when Steele came up to him and said “I have received official information that there is to be a great air raid by the Germans on England tonight and tomorrow night”. When asked where he got his information he replied: “I received it from a friend of mine in London”. He refused to give his name or address, or to say whether he was staying at Leighton. P.C. Clarke asked if he realised he was liable to arrest under the Defence of the Realm Regulations for spreading false reports he replied: “I know all about the Defence of the Realm Regulations, and you can apprehend me if you like”. Police Superintendent Matthews came along and Steele repeated what he had said, though he denied using the word “official”. The regulations do not allow bail for cases of this type without permission from the military authorities, so Steele was remanded until 6th November.[1]

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer 30th October 1917 & 13th November 1917

[1] When the case was heard Steele’s solicitor told the court that there had been much discussion of air raids at his lodgings and they were much on his mind. Steele said he had refused to give his name as he was annoyed by the policeman’s officious manner. He was a respectable man who had never been in trouble with the police before. The Chairman of the Bench told Steele he had behaved very foolishly, but as he had by this time spent 14 days on remand he was sentenced only to one day’s imprisonment. The manager of Messrs. J. White & Co. wine merchants said they did not intend to re-employ Steele.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Luton Man to Train American Soldiers

American troops passing Buckingham Palace, 1917
[Imperial War Museum Q30005 reproduced under IWM Non Commercial Licence]

Monday 22nd October 1917: Percy “Punch” Lovell of Luton has been chosen as one of around 100 soldiers who are being sent to the United States to train American soldiers in the methods of warfare used in France. He was well-known in the town before the war as the centre-forward for the Clarence football team. He served for two-and-a-half year in Flanders and France, gaining promotion to the rank of sergeant. Despite being in the thick of the fighting he escaped without a scratch, and for several months has been a machine gun instructor in England. Sadly his parents’ pride in their son’s achievements has been tempered by the news that their other son, Gerald, has been killed in action. Gerald Lovell enlisted in the Bedfordshire Regiment last November, was drafted to the Front in April, and died when a shell burst, killing him instantly and wounding two others. He leaves a young wife, who lives at 12 Langley Road.

Source: Luton News, 25th October 1917 

Friday, 20 October 2017

Red Cross Day at Bedford

S. H. Whitbread Esq. inspecting munition workers
[Bedfordshire Standard 26th October 1917]

Saturday 20th October 1917: Today Bedford is holding a fundraising day in aid of the Red Cross Society. House-to –house collections have already been made, and are said to have gone well. The Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, Mr. S. H. Whitbread, will be visiting all the Red Cross Depots in the town, beginning with the Shire Hall Depot at 10 a.m. At the various depots he will also inspect guards of honour from the following organisations: No.3 Bedford Detachment of the Red Cross Society; the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment; the Bedford Boy Scout Troop; the Church Lads’ Brigade; the wounded from the Ampthill Road School Hospital; munition girls from the Queen’s Engineering Works; and the County Special Constabulary. The Band of the Royal Engineers will play during the morning at St. Peter’s and in the afternoon on the Embankmant. A grand concert is also to be given on Thursday 22nd November in aid of the Red Cross Day fund. The weather this morning is perfect, and a successful day is predicted.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 19th and 26th October 1917

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Luton Woman Abuses Stallholder at Bedford Station

Bedford Midland Road Station c.1905 [Z1306/10/41/22]

Wednesday 17th October 1917: Agnes Hitchens of Albion Road, Luton, has appeared at the Bedford Police Court, where she was summoned by Archie Kaufman, a Jew of British nationality who carried on business selling hats in the Arcade, Bedford. On September 3rd he was in the refreshment room at Bedford Station when Mrs. Hitchens dropped a book. As she picked it up she said, “I always drop my book in front of a German”. A few minutes later she came up to him and struck him on the shoulder, announcing several times that he was a German and ought to be strung up. He went out and spoke to a policeman but Mrs. Hitchens continued her complaints.

Mr. Kaufman told the court that he and Mrs. Hitchens had held adjacent stalls in a number of markets. When questioned he said that she had never complained that he showed indecent literature to young women in railway carriages, and he had not insinuated in the waiting room that she was a low, common woman. Another gentleman – a complete stranger to him - had thrown whiskey and soda over her after she spat in his face and called him a “dirty German” too. He denied that he himself had thrown the whiskey over her. A waitress at the restaurant agreed that the whiskey had been thrown by an unknown gentleman, who she believed to be an American, and not by Mr. Kaufman, who had ignored the woman until she followed him down the room, struck him lightly on the shoulder and charged him with being a German.

Although Mrs. Hitchens’ solicitor argued that she was in fact the injured party, and that having whiskey thrown in her face and over her clothes was much more serious than a tap on the shoulder, the Bench considered that a technical offence had been proved. Mrs. Hitchens was fined ten shillings, and the Chairman pointed out that the use of such language in a public place might have led to a serious outcome.

Source: Luton News, 18th October 1917

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Edgar Mobbs

Edgar Mobbs [Image source: Wikimedia]

Monday 15th October 1917: Donations of £1,800 have so far been received from subscribers to the memorial fund set up following the death of former England Rugby international player Lieutenant-Colonel Edgar Mobbs on 31st July. An in memoriam souvenir booklet published for the benefit of the fund includes the following interesting letter written by a fellow old boy of Bedford Modern School, 2nd Lieutenant N. Spencer, with the heading “How he charged to certain death”:
“I was F.O.O. in the stunt, and went over the top and saw Mobbs. Perhaps I was one of the last officers he spoke to. Anyway, my last sight of him is something that will be worth remembering of him in the old Bedford Modern School. We had waited three hours for the time to come, and the rain, mud, etc., well, the papers tell you all this. Then the minute came – forward through seas of mud and terrific shelling … I was right behind Mobbs, introduced myself to him just before the hour as an old B.M.S. boy, and talked about Rugger and R. C. Stafford. In the tornado of hostile shelling he got ahead, and, seeing a number of his men cut down by an undiscovered machine gun strong point, he charged it to bomb it – certain death under such a terrific hail of shell – and he went down. I have seen men, and good men, but for a man of his standing and his rank it was magnificent. I sat down afterwards in a captured dugout, and instead of that picture, I saw the old three-quarter in his own “25” get the ball from a crumpled up scrum and go clean through scrum and on. The same man, the same determination, a born leader.”
Source: Bedfordshire Standard 12th October 1917

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Young Flying Corps Officers Wounded and Missing

Leighton Buzzard gas works, Grovebury Road c.1930 [Z1432/3/4/5/1]

Friday 12th October 1917: A 18 year old officer in the Royal Flying Corps is  recovering in King’s College Hospital, Denmark Hill, after a lucky escape. Second Lieutenant Edward A. R. Hills, the only son of the Vicar of Leighton Buzzard, was leading a patrol over the German lines when he was struck in the leg and his aircraft damaged. He started to return but a second shot broke off part of the propeller which struck him on the forehead. He stayed conscious just long enough to shut off his engine and land in a wood before passing out. He came round to find soldiers extricating him from the wrecked machine. Less than a week ago the under carriage of his aeroplane was shot away, and he was using a replacement aircraft.

The relatives of another young Leighton Buzzard flier, Lieutenant Fred Brasington, have been told that he is missing. He set out for the enemy lines with a pilot on Tuesday morning and has not been heard of since. Before the war Lieutenant Brasington was a pupil at the Leighton Buzzard Gas Works. He had served with the Royal Fusiliers since the early days of the war, but only recently took up a commission in the Royal Flying Corps. He had been in France for just a fortnight.[1]

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 16th October 1917

[1] The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records the death of Frederick Thomas Brasington on Tuesday 9th October 1917. He is remembered on the Arras Flying Services Memorial.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Blackberry Collection by Bedfordshire Schools

Blackberries [Image source: Wikimedia]

Tuesday 9th October 1917: About 120 Bedfordshire schools are taking part in  a scheme to collect blackberries which will be used to make jam for soldiers and sailors. Both children and teachers have been gathering blackberries enthusiastically, regardless of the weather. By the end of last week the county had collected nearly 25 tons of the fruit. The most successful schools last week were Eaton Socon and Cranfield, which each sent in over 7 hundredweight, Wootton with nearly 6 hundredweight, Toddington Voluntary and Council Schools with over 7 hundredweight between them, and Sharnbrook and Marston Moretaine with 5½  and 5 hundredweight respectively. Three small schools, at Pulloxhill, Pertenhall and Lidlington, deserve particular mention for sending over 2 hundredweight each.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 12th October 1917

Friday, 6 October 2017

Luton Hat Trade Working Hours

The largest straw hat in the world, c.1905 [Z1306/75/17/45]

Saturday 6th October 1917: A meeting of the Luton Chamber of Commerce was held last night at which a report was made on a proposal to introduce common working hours throughout the Luton hat trade. The suggested hours would begin earlier, have a fixed dinner hour, miss out the tea hour, and close earlier in the evening. The proposal was favourably received, but it was decided to refer it to separate committees for detailed consideration. The general principle of shorter hours was supported, but there was some concern that fixed hours would cause problems for companies with very few employees, where considerable overtime was often worked during busy seasons. Limiting hours might put some of these firms in a difficult position, and the loss of extra wages would be unpopular with their staff. In response to this concern it was pointed out that it was not right for any man to work from 4 a.m. until as late as 10 p.m., doing a fortnight’s work in a week.

Source: Luton News, 11th October 1917

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Linslade Soldier a Prisoner in Germany

St. Barnabas Church and recreation ground, Linslade c.1906 [Z50/74/1]

Wednesday 3rd October 1917: Mr. and Mrs. George Read of 39 Old Road, Linslade, have received a postcard from their son Frederick telling them that he is now a prisoner at Limburg in Germany. Private Read was a bugler in the St. Barnabas Church Lads’ Brigade and worked as a cleaner on the railway before he was called up last February. Soon after his 19th birthday he was sent to France and transferred to the Inniskillin Regiment. A fellow soldier wrote to Private Read’s parents informing them that their son had been wounded on August 16th and had probably been taken prisoner by the Germans. Another Linslade soldier, Private Page of Wing Road, was wounded in the same fighting.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer 2nd October 1917